As part of the protest, a rally was organised from the Majestic Railway Station to Freedom Park in Bengaluru. The protesters’ demands included the arrest of Karnataka Textbook Revision Committee head Rohit Chakrathirtha.

Hundreds turn up at Bengaluru Freedom Park to protest textbook revision in KarnatakaEminent personalities of varied ideologies took part in the protest
news Politics Sunday, June 19, 2022 - 16:29

A large-scale protest was organised at the Freedom Park in Bengaluru on Saturday, June 18, demanding the withdrawal of school textbooks revised by the Karnataka Textbook Revision Committee headed by Rohit Chakrathirtha. Hundreds of protesters from various professions, ranging from poets, politicians, activists and lawyers to educationists, students, and civic organisations, took part in the stir, which was led by the Vishwa Manava Krantikari Mahakavi Kuvempu Horata Samiti. Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, state Congress president DK Shivakumar, Janata Dal (Secular) president CM Ibrahim, Sri Nanjavadutha Swami of Spatikapuri Math, and former Supreme Court Justice V Gopala Gowda were among the prominent personalities who took part in the protest.

Speaking to TNM, Rashmi, a teacher, and member of the citizens’ group Bahutva Karnataka attending the protest, said they were protesting against the saffronisation of textbooks and the derogatory remarks made by Rohit against literary icon Kuvempu’s Nadageethe (state anthem). “We want plurality in our textbooks. We are essentially shaping children’s minds, and we can’t shape it according to Hindutva principles and narratives,” she said. Bahutva Karnataka has also released a public charge sheet against Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh.

Founder of Bheema Putri Brigade, Revathi Raj, noted, “The entire textbook has been streamlined according to one ideology. They have even insulted Baba Saheb Ambedkar.” Advocate Maitreyi Krishna pointed out that the current BJP government was trying to introduce a casteist and saffronised version of the textbooks. “The material is clearly Brahminical, against Dalits and the foundation of the state. These textbooks will deprive students of core values such as fraternity and plurality.”

Geeta Menon of the Stree Jagruti Samiti believes that the committee was entirely composed of supporters of the right-wing government, their intent being to change the existing textbooks and introduce things like RSS founder KB Hedgewar’s speech. “Through the textbook revision, they are trying to impose their Brahminical thought process on students, thus working towards their plan to build a nation of one language, one dress, etc. We are already seeing this happening with the government trying to dictate how people should dress and what food they should have. Now they are infiltrating the field of education as well. While doing this, they have removed works of a renowned poet of the soil, Kuvempu, the struggles of Savitribai Phule, and many other progressive Dalit and Christian writers. This is going against the Constitution, which speaks of equality, fraternity, and liberty,” she said.

The protest is calling for the arrest of Rohit and for the textbooks under the previous committee to be brought back, Geeta said. “Even though these school textbooks have always been patriarchal, the impact of the latest revision of textbooks will be such that our children will grow up to be insular, with no understanding of plurality. Does the government have any serious intent to provide education,” she asked, further pointing out that government school students, for whom education is the only way forward, were going to be most affected by the textbook controversy. “These textbooks have been revised before as well. How is it that they suddenly found the content to be against Brahmin sentiments?”


Scenes from the protest rally

Abhi Gowda, founder and coordinator of the Dravida City Movement, opined that the government’s textbook committee was illegally constituted, and that the revised textbooks were against the spirit of Kannada language, culture and social justice, and instead focused on Hindi nationalism. “The textbooks are designed in such a way that the students will become slaves to north Indian ideal, creating in them an inferiority complex regarding their language, caste, colour and gender,” he said. “If these textbooks are rolled out, then the next generation will become anti-women, anti-Dravidian and anti-Kannada, instead becoming pro-Hindi and pro-Sanskrit,” said Vijay Shetty, a member of the Dravida City Movement.

Freelance development educationist Niranjanaradhya VP told TNM that the protest was to question the process of textbook revision, which was carried out without any mandate, and based on no normative curriculum framework that derives value from the Constitution. “The process followed was completely unconstitutional, undemocratic, opaque and arbitrary. We are not against the revision, but there should be a framework,” he said.

“Rohit was asked to review only two paragraphs from the chapter ‘Rise of religion’ in the Class 6 textbook. But he went ahead and revised the textbooks for all classes. These textbooks will poison the minds of children and impose on them the Hindu Rashtra ideology, which is not sovereign, socialist, or republic. It is very sad that because of this uncalled revision, rural schools have been deprived of textbooks. There has been a collapse in the education system. No learning has taken place over the past month, despite this being the recovery year,” he said.

Shalom Gauri, the head of student organisation ‘Collective’, added that besides the revision of textbooks, the protest was also against the attack on the education system at large. “With the New Education Policy (NEP), 2020, it can be seen how the government is trying to shrug off the responsibility of providing free and accessible education. They are trying to push for privatisation, a move that is going hand-in-hand with the rewriting of history.”.

The protest also saw the tearing of the controversial textbook by DK Shivakumar and the burning of a poster of Rohit by the Dr Rajkumar Association, an activist group that has been active from the 1980s Gokak movement. A journalist was assaulted during the protest, as per a statement released by the Home Minister’s Office.

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